No one is more chill about Sandy Brondello and Olaf Lange coaching against each in the WNBA Finals than the spouses themselves.
That comes from years of a workable separation between their personal and professional lives, whether coaching on the same staff or now separately for two seasons, Brondello as Phoenix Mercury head coach and Lange as Chicago Sky assistant coach.
“The public gets a crack out of it, but for us it’s not that big of a deal,” Lange said Monday. “We are not really people that get too carried away with the winning and losing stuff. We’ve been in this for too long so we can really enjoy the moment.”
“The Finals obviously takes it to a different level. There’s more pressure on her as a head coach than on me. I give her a little more space now than maybe in the regular season games. But for us, it’s not a big deal. We’re both very down to earth people.”
Their history goes back a quarter century to 1995 when Brondello was an Australian playing in Germany for BTV Wuppertal, a team German native Lange joined as an assistant. They began dating a year later and have been married 16 with two children, Brody (14) and Jayda (11).
“I’m excited for both of us to get this opportunity to play in the Finals,” Brondello said Sunday before Game 1, which the Sky won 91-77. “It’s never easy to get here and kind of surreal we’re both here now. It’s a great journey for our children as well. Olaf and I have coached a lot together over in Russia, this is the first time in a Finals situation here . I’m biased I always say they’re going to cheer for us. They want to see the best from both teams. May the best team win.”
Lange was head coach of Russia power UMMC Ekaterinburg from 2012-18 with Brondello as his assistant. UMMC’s 2012-13 team including the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi and Sky’s Candace Parker won a EuroLeague title with a second coming under Lange in 2016.
Sky head coach James Wade was a consultant for UMMC in 2012-13, then was Lange’s assistant in 2015-16 after Brondello transitioned to Australian National team coach.
“There is many years of history,” said Lange, who was Brondello’s assistant with the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2010 when Wade’s wife Edwige Lawson played in the WNBA and Wade was a practice player. “We go way back.”
Brondello was an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Sparks from 2011-13 when Parker’s daughter Lailaa was an infant.
“I changed their kids’ diapers and my daughter and Jayda are best friends,” Parker said. “It’s crazy to be here (in the Finals).
“They’ve been in this situation a lot. You love your family, that’s always going to be there, but you’re definitely trying to win.”
Lange is staying with the Sky during their time in Phoenix, where Game 2 is Wednesday and potentially a deciding Game 5 on Oct. 19. Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) and Friday and Sunday in Chicago, where Brody spent a week and Jayda a month this summer with their dad.
“Most of the time they’re in Phoenix, in school and their social circles,” Lange said. “We’re on this club for girls here where our daughter plays. Some of the mothers made a t-shirt with a Mercury logo and a Sky logo.”
At the Tokyo Olympics, Lange was Brondello’s assistant for the Opals’ disappointing showing ending with a quarterfinal loss to the eventual gold medal-winning US and no medal. So for both, being in the WNBA Finals is somewhat redemptive even though one is destined to be on the losing end.
“We talked a lot about the Olympics,” while apart during this WNBA season, said Lange, who joined the Sky in 2020. “When it comes to her team and our team, we’ll keep our space and stay away from those conversations . We’ve been married a long time so it’s not just basketball. There’s other things to talk about.”
“We’re just really happy for each other,” Brondello said. “It’s been a tough year with the Olympics. Everyone knows the situation what happened over there. It’s good to be back in the Finals. We don’t take this for granted. We’ve worked really hard, both of us, for our One of us is going home happy, aren’t we?
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Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8053. Follow him on Twitter @jeffmetcalfe.
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